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For those who love their soda — truly love their soda — the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine is a revelation. This large red machine, seen in some restaurants and movie theaters, gives customers up to 165 individual soda flavor choices. The machine mixes syrup flavors with carbonated water to create the soda chosen from the touch screen.
Having such a machine in your home probably isn’t practical. But if you like the idea of mixing your own soda, adding a soda maker to your kitchen appliance list is an interesting option.
A soda maker is similar in size to a blender, so it’ll easily fit on a kitchen counter. And you can purchase a variety of syrups and other mix-ins to enhance your homemade soda.
Some people use a soda maker to create homemade sparkling water for cocktails or other recipes.
At BestReviews, we study the market to identify the best wares in a given product space. Our goal is to provide consumers with unbiased reviews of the choices seen in stores and online. We never accept free manufacturer samples; we buy our test products off of store shelves, just as you do.
You can see our top picks for soda makers in the above matrix. If you’d like to learn more about what sets the best soda makers apart from the rest, please read our soda maker shopping guide.
A soda maker adds carbon dioxide to water to create carbonated water, or what some people call “fizzy” or “sparkling” water. You can then add syrup to the carbonated water to create flavored soda.
You can use tap water as a base for the soda, but you’ll need to buy syrups for flavored soda.
Depending on the type of soda machine you own, you’ll also need to purchase carbon dioxide cartridges, tablets, or pods to inject the carbonation into the water.
To maintain the fizz in your soda longer, keep the lid closed whenever not drinking it, and keep it refrigerated.
Many soda makers require these basic steps to create carbonated water:
Depending on its size, a single carbon dioxide cartridge can create anywhere from one quart to fifteen gallons of sparkling water. You may suppose a larger cartridge would be more convenient because you wouldn’t have to replace it as often. However, some soda makers only accept one specific cartridge size.
A few soda makers use dissolvable tablets instead of a cartridge. Still others use a pod system similar to that of a single-serve coffee maker. If you select a soda maker that uses a tablet or pod system, understand that you won’t be able to control the concentration of carbonation in your final product.
The more carbon dioxide you use, the more “bite” you’ll taste in your sparkling water. A quality machine allows you to personally select the amount of carbonation you want. The machine may require you to choose from an on-screen menu or press a button representing a specific concentration. Or, it may let you know how much carbonation is present via an LED display.
The time required to complete the carbonation process varies depending on the machine. Some soda makers can inject the carbon dioxide in about 30 seconds; others require three or four minutes. In general, the less carbon dioxide you use, the less time it will take to carbonate the water.
Before choosing a soda maker, consult the product specs to determine the type of carbon dioxide cartridges (or tablets or pods) you’ll need to buy.
All fizzy drinks are not created equal. Below, we define the different types that are available, most of which can be created with a soda-making machine.
To create club soda, you’ll usually be adding potassium bicarbonate to tap water. This process is not something most soda makers can do. You can also add other ingredients, like sodium citrate, to create different flavors of club soda.
If you want to create orange soda, cola, or fizzy water of another flavor, you must first create carbonated water with your soda maker. Then, you must add flavored syrup to the drink.
Both seltzer and sparkling water consist of carbon dioxide mixed with water. No flavoring or other minerals are added to this type of water. Soda makers can create this beverage.
To create tonic, you must first create sparkling water with your soda maker. Then, you must add a tonic mix to the sparkling water.
Most soda maker manufacturers sell things like soda flavoring or tonic mix. However, you may be able to save money by buying these supplies from other sources.
Some soda makers require more counter space than others, and some stand taller than others. Before buying a machine, make sure its dimensions would fit your available space.
Some soda makers require electrical power to inject the carbon dioxide into the water. These machines must be plugged into a wall outlet.
Other units, like the SodaStream Jet Fountain in our product matrix, don’t need electricity; pressure from the carbon dioxide cartridge mixes the sparkling water. Soda makers that don’t require electricity may include a battery to operate LED lights.
Some soda makers are easier to use than others. For example, you may find that the tap water bottle snaps easily into place — or you may find yourself awkwardly trying to screw the bottle into place with a bit of elbow grease. Some carbon dioxide cartridges are easier to replace than others, too.
Of course, you’ll want to clean your soda maker in between uses to avoid the hazardous buildup of bacteria or mold. Notably, some machines are easier to take apart than others, and some require hand washing because the parts aren’t safe in the dishwasher.
Surprisingly, some soda makers are really loud! Some create lots of noise during operation, and some use alarms to indicate the end of the carbonation process. If desired, look for a quiet machine.
Although a soda maker can be a fun appliance to have in your kitchen, don’t automatically assume you’re going to save a bunch of money by using it. Your costs will include the purchase of the machine, replacement cartridges, and syrups. If you think you’re going to be able to save money by making your own cola at home (versus buying bottles of Coke or Pepsi at the store), you could be disappointed.
You could pay anywhere from $50 to $400+ for a soda maker. Machines that allow you to control the level of carbonation cost more, as do some name brand appliances. Though it costs a fair amount, we’re quite pleased with the KitchenAid Sparkling Beverage Maker on our shortlist — as are many owners.
A cheap soda maker may appeal to your wallet initially, but in the long run, it may carry higher operational costs. We advise potential buyers to keep these tips in mind:
If your soda maker can only use cartridges made by the manufacturer, you could void your warranty by using a cartridge from another manufacturer.
Soda makers are rather simple pieces of equipment, but you can make the most of your machine by observing these tips and tricks.
Q: What’s the most important feature of a quality soda maker?
A: Having the ability to choose and adjust the level of carbonation in your beverage is perhaps the most useful feature in a soda-making machine. This is important because the concentration of carbonation in the water greatly affects the way the sparkling water tastes. However, a machine with this capability tends to cost more.
Notably, you cannot control the degree of carbonation with a machine that uses tablets or pods.
Q: Is a soda siphon the same as a soda maker?
A: No, these are different devices.
Two types of soda siphons are available for purchase. One type is a bottle that contains pre-carbonated water. (Some people call it a seltzer bottle.) Another type of soda siphon is a bottle of tap water with a plastic top screwed onto it. The plastic part contains a small carbon dioxide cartridge that carbonates the water as you expel it from the plastic siphon.
As we’ve discussed in this shopping guide, a soda maker is a machine that adds carbon dioxide to tap water to create carbonated water. The carbon dioxide cartridge fits inside the machine.
Most soda makers can create far more carbonated water at a time than a soda siphon.
Q: How long does a soda maker last?
A: As long as you keep the parts of the machine cleaned properly, a soda maker should last several years. Most manufacturers recommend a cleaning schedule for you.
That said, a machine that’s made of metal will probably last longer than one made of plastic. Metal options include aluminum and stainless steel. The KitchenAid Sparkling Beverage Maker on our list is made of premium die cast metal. It costs more than some other options, but if you’re really into making your own soda, this could be the right option for you.
Q: Can I use any bottle with my soda maker?
A: Unfortunately, no. The bottle needs to be able to fit inside the machine. If it doesn’t fit properly or is loose in the machine, the process of adding carbonation may knock the bottle out of place. This could result in water leakage and a significant mess.
Some bottles must be screwed into place. If you buy a product like this, the bottle shipped with the machine should have the correct threads. Other types of machines use a snapping mechanism to fit the bottle into place.